Founded in 1881, AAUW is one of the world’s largest sources of funding for graduate women. The organization’s mission is “advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy, education, philanthropy and research.”
The fellowship will provide $20,000 to support Ulusoy-Erol’s doctoral studies for the 2017-2018 academic year. International Fellowships are awarded for full-time study or research in the United States to women who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
Ulusoy-Erol, who is from Turkey, is conducting research with Christa and Jamie Hestekin, both chemical engineering faculty. She is studying the use of electrodeionization, or EDI, which uses electricity to remove ions from water. Ulusoy-Erol is researching a couple different application for this process.
One application for EDI is to purify industrial waste water by selectively removing industrial metal ions. This process could have applications in many different areas, including hydraulic fracturing and industrial plants. Ulusoy-Erol’s project focuses on removing calcium, magnesium, ammonium and sodium ions. She is also working on computational models that will make it easier for researchers adjust the process for other types of pollutants.
Ulusoy-Erol is also studying the use of EDI in the process of growing algae for biofuels. In this project, researchers use EDI to convert carbon dioxide into bicarbonate. The bicarbonate will help create an ideal environment for growing algae, which can be used to create biofuels.
Ulusoy-Erol explained that she got interested in this research because of its potential impact on climate change. “I have always thought that global warming is one of the biggest issues the world is facing right now and the biggest factor in global warming is fossil fuel combustion,” she explained. “To eliminate fossil fuels in the world, we must have an alternative solution. The biofuel that we get from microalgae is the most significant solution.” She explained that unlike other sources of biofuel like corn, algae can have a high yield in a small area, and because it’s not a food source, using it to make fuel doesn’t affect the global food supply.
“Since joining our research group, Humeyra has done impressive work in the lab, and she has submitted a paper, organized a United Nations panel, and now she has been recognized with this prestigious award,” said Jamie Hestekin. “Christa and I and her fellow students couldn’t be more proud of her. It is students like Humeyra — students who go above and beyond to make a difference in their communities and on a global level — that really help to make our university great.”